Gulf Israeli relations were the unspoken secret behind the news reports that Israeli sports teams visited various Gulf states, or many reports about some Gulf states buying Israeli-made technology. However, no one expected the sudden “normalization” with the UAE and Bahrain given that the entire Arab World believed that Arab leaders, especially those in the Gulf tied to the Arab Initiative, a Saudi-made peace plan offered to the Israelis and endorsed by all Arab countries in 2002.
While the region is desperate for a peace deal, public opinion in the Gulf is not necessarily ready for normalization. Israel has not made peace with the Palestinians. Palestinians are still living under occupation. And the threat of annexation is growing despite the recent statement putting it on hold.
In the recent months, Israel announced plans to further annex almost one-third of the West Bank including large portions of the Jordan Valley. Originally Israeli PM Netanyahu set his annexation plans for July. However, he used the COVID19 crisis and Trump administration objections to delay the project. However, in the same week of the announcement of the UAE’s normalization with Israel, Netanyahu affirmed his commitment to annexing the West Bank.
Despite the rising frustration among Palestinians and the Arab public, especially in light of the potential annexations, Israel had begun to forge stronger relationships with many Gulf countries that have significantly altered the fabric of politics within the region. Israel has also maintained longstanding communication channels with Qatar, Oman, in addition to the UAE and Bahrain, mainly for security cooperation against Iran.
How much does Gulf public opinion diverge from governments’ normalization with Israel? What does normalization offer for increased trade, cultural and economic relations between Gulf states and Israel? Are investors in Israel and the UAE ready to seek investments in the other country? How does normalization impact future negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Would civil society in the Gulf resist normalization with Israel? How does the Israeli public view normalization with any of the GCC countries? Does the threat coming from Iran persuade Gulf states’ public opinion to accept Israel as an ally in the face of Iranian missiles threatening their cities?
Featured Speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros (moderator), Dr. Aaron David Miller, Dr. Mohamed Ghanem Alrumaihi, Dr. Shira Efron, and Dr. Khalid Saffuri.
Ambassador Patrick Theros
Strategic Advisor, Gulf International Forum
Ambassador Theros has held such positions as Political Advisor to the Commander in Chief, Central Command; Deputy Chief of Mission and Political officer in Amman; Charge D’affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi; Economic Counselor in Damascus; and U.S. Ambassador to the State of Qatar. In a career spanning almost 36 years, he also has served in diplomatic positions in Beirut, Managua, Dharan and Abu Dhabi, as well as in the Department of State. During that period, he earned four Superior Honor Awards. After retirement Ambassador Theros served as President of the U.S. Qatar Business Council in 2000-2017.
Dr. Aaron David Miller
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, focusing on U.S. foreign policy. He has written five books, including his most recent, The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President (Palgrave, 2014) and The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace (Bantam, 2008). He received his PhD in Middle East and U.S. diplomatic history from the University of Michigan in 1977.
Between 1978 and 2003, Miller served at the State Department as a historian, analyst, negotiator, and advisor to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, where he helped formulate U.S. policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israel peace process, most recently as the senior advisor for Arab-Israeli negotiations. He also served as the deputy special Middle East coordinator for Arab-Israeli negotiations, senior member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and in the office of the historian. He has received the department’s Distinguished, Superior, and Meritorious Honor Awards. He is currently a CNN Global Affairs Analyst.
Dr. Mohamed Ghanem Alrumaihi
Professor of Political Sociology, Kuwait University
Professor Alrumaihi has written extensively on political sociology, social change in the Gulf region, and the cultural changing of Arab world. He has published more than twenty five books. He served as the Editor in Chief of Awan, a daily Kuwaiti newspaper. Before that Editor in chief of AlArabi Magazine. Served as the General Secretary of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) of Kuwaiti Government 1998-2011, founder and editor in chief for daily and monthly publications, an Advisor on various Committees on Education, Information, Culture and politics, for the Kuwaiti government, and private institutions in the Gulf region, member of the board of (diplomatic institute – Kuwait foreign affairs Ministry), Doha institute for graduate studies, Babtain Cultural foundation.
Dr. Alrumaihi has served as a member of various Committees within the Kuwait Government, (1994 – 1997) member of the Advisory board for the Council of ministers headed by Kuwait Prime, member of a number of working commissions on general education and higher education, member of the boards on information, culture policies and planning, member of the Gulf Studies Center Advisory Board at the American University of Kuwait and member of the Austrian College in Kuwait, as well serving in prize and publication committees of KFAS.
Dr. Shira Efron
Senior Research Fellow, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
Dr. Shira Efron is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a Special Advisor on Israel with the RAND Corporation, and an Adjunct Scholar at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point. Dr. Efron specializes in policy analysis, research, and planning methods that can be applied in a variety of contexts. Her research focus is U.S. policy toward the Middle East, including on Israel’s evolving ties with China and the Israeli-Arab conflict, and the nexus between climate change and national security. Her studies are featured regularly in Israeli and international media outlets. Before joining INSS, RAND, and MWI, Dr. Efron was a Middle East analyst at several think tanks in Washington DC including the Center for American Progress and Middle East Institute. She has a Ph.D. and M.Phil. in policy analysis from RAND’s Graduate School, an M.A. in international relations/international business from New York University (NYU) and a B.Sc. in biology (major) and computer science (minor) from Tel Aviv University. She is a member of the board of directors of Deborah Forum, which promotes women in the security establishment, and a policy advisor with Israel Policy Forum.
Founding President, the National Interest Foundation
Khaled Saffuri is the Founding President at the National Interest Foundation, a foreign policy think-tank and nonprofit dedicated to furthering the national interest of the United States around the globe by providing strategic insights and policy solutions to help decision makers chart a course toward a better world. Previously, Saffuri served as a Principal at Meridian Strategies providing international business and government clients with unparalleled strategic and public affairs consulting services. He served as Development Director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee as well as Deputy Director of the National Association of Arab Americans.